me, now is a Double Bill by NUS Stage that features ‘Period Play’ by Yen Lin, and ‘Kopi Culture Kosong’ by Jenny Rays. Before the play opens next week, The Ridge finds out more from the playwrights about the production.
Interview with Yen Lin, the Scriptwriter of ‘Period Play’
Could you provide me with a short synopsis of ‘Period Play’?
Well ‘Period Play’ is really about a bunch of kids trying to be adults, trying to grow up with an absent mother or father figure. It’s about adolescence and friends and making one’s way and struggling with difficult emotions. As for a synopsis… let’s just say the characters have a lot of fun with each other.
Is ‘Period Play’ your first piece of work to be translated into a public performance?
Yes it is.
‘Period Play’ somewhat reminds me of The Vagina Monologues. Did the piece by Eve Ensler inspire your script?
Yes it did. I read TVM during my first or second year in NUS, in one of my Theatre Studies classes. It inspired me a lot, and I always wanted to perform in it. So The ‘Period Play’ is a mini tribute to TVM.
My play is also inspired by my good friend Joanna, a brilliant playwright herself, who had “female conversations” with me all the time while growing up together – what it means to be female, would it be better as a male, expectations, prejudices, etc. Thanks, Joey.
The characters in the script are all female, save for one Jack, who is NOT a good representative of men in general. Do you agree that ‘Period Play’ negatively portrays males in heterosexual relationships?
I am not sure. I wanted to show Jack as a brother and boy who was also struggling with himself, his own concerns, his own growth. Is it realistic for Jack to be able to play the “responsible family man” at his age, or for us to expect him to? He doesn’t represent “males in heterosexual relationships” just as Arial doesn’t represent all women in heterosexual relationships. I think I am just laughing at how being in a “heterosexual relationship” may cause the best of us to fall into certain patterns of behavior or thought that we believe we “ought” to be having. So to me Jack, like Ariel, is just a kid trying to find his way while struggling with the very serious “adult” matter of having a baby (which is the epitome of responsibility in my opinion, being responsible for another life).
There are many challenging scenes, especially ones with intimacy between Jack and Ariel, as well as the Period Lady and Ms Tan. Which one do you think the director (Claudia) will have the most challenge directing the actors with?
I have confidence that Claudia will have no problems with the scenes. I’m curious to see how she’s going to run with the script I’ve written, and from what I’ve been hearing it is very exciting indeed…
What message do you hope most to be brought across to the audience with ‘Period Play’?
Growing up is tough. But it can be fun. And we all do it together, whether we know it or not.
Interview with Jenny, the Scriptwriter of ‘Kopi Culture Kosong’
Could you provide me with a short synopsis of ‘Kopi Culture Kosong’?
Kopi Culture Kosong is sort of an anti-play. You have two rather unlikeable characters — two neurotic, hyperarticulate (or to use today’s terminology, “hipster”) girls — living in their own psuedo-bohemian blind spots, floating in and out of different vignettes of their undergraduate lives, doing and ultimately achieving nothing in particular. Then “graduation”, that so-called hallmark of change, arrives — and we see how, really, nothing changes for them. Keyword: kosong. So the protagonists realise, in some sense, that they should stop waiting for cinematic dramatic intervention to come along and “change their lives”, and instead begin to appreciate the small, absurd moments, the “brief candles” that is the banal and mundane.
Is ‘Kopi Culture Kosong’ your first piece of work to be translated into a public performance?
How did KCK come about? Were there any particular personal experiences or anything that inspired it?
KCK was written for the module EN2271: Introduction to Playwriting under playwright Huzir Sulaiman, my tutor for that class. It is very much inspired by the dialogue-driven films of Woody Allen, Walt Stillman and Richard Linklater. I drew much inspiration from all the people I knew: all the lonely, intelligent, insecure, neurotic, posturing, malaise-afflicted twentysomethings in or out of college, forever referencing some film/book/band, suspicious of everything, almost always under the influence of some drug or another (coffee, music, what have you).
Do you have a favorite playwright? Whose work is your greatest influence?
Top three playwrights: Samuel Beckett, David Mamet and Neil LaBute — in particular LaBute’s The Shape of Things. I don’t have a favourite playwright in particular and I’m more indebted to literary and pop culture figures.
There are a few strangely morbid yet philosophical lines in the script – “80% of humanity is miserable..It’s good to be depressed; Kopi and culture can be bought, and both are kosong”. This is quoted by the philosophical Mel who seems to have her act put together, and then you have Lin, who is the rich neurotic girl. Did you create these two strange characters out of Mel and Lynn based on actual people you know?
Mel and Lin are montages of everyone that I know, and then some. So they’re not purely based on actual people in particular. I would say that with Mel and Lin, I’m trying to capture the zeitgeist or the attitude of a certain type of cynical young adult.
In your opinion, which scene in the play is most challenging, of which, you think the director (Koon Hui) will have problems directing/ actors channeling the mood you intended?
I’m not sure which one is the hardest to execute but the first scene is already quite problematic — two characters in a bathtub, wearing convocation gowns, juggling bags of kopi — a logistical nightmare. It’s also a very delicate scene where mood, sensitivity and timing is everything, but I’m sure Koon Hui knows what to do. As a playwright, once the script leaves you, it takes on a life of its own in the hands of the eventual director — and all you can do is sit back and enjoy the show.
NUS Stage‘s production “Me, Now”, A Double Bill featuring:
PERIOD PLAY (by Yen Lin Teng, directed by Claudia Wong) &
KOPI CULTURE KOSONG (by Jenny Rays, directed by Koon Hui Goh)
opens 16 Oct (Wed) at NUS University Cultural Centre Theatre at 8pm!
Admission is free (First Come First Serve), and tickets will be at the door 15 minutes before show time.
Visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/705285152820100/ for more information.